Would knowing how you die change the way you live?
Frode Hall inherits a book that promises to tell his story, and it does. It starts with a recap of his childhood, leads him through his teens and into adult life. Then it turns a page and shows how he dies in a car crash the following day. Frode panics, but can he trust the book? It's showing a huge Grizzly sneaking around the garden, and there are no bears in the garden, only Imre, his neighbor.
By not being in his car when the predicted car crash was to take place, he survives another day. But someone has learned he has the book, and it's showing ninjas breaking into his apartment to get it. Unsure of what to do, Frode turns to Imre. Frode doesn't know what to believe about his growling and talk of mates, but he trusts Imre to help him. They leave the city in a hurry, but will the book give them enough warning to keep them alive or will their journey end in a gruesome prophecy?
As if the book understood he didn’t want to watch how he’d gone from happy and confident to broken and scared during his time with Dario, it skimmed forward. It showed him when he’d first walked up to this building, but it wasn’t accurate.
“Wait. Go back.”
The book turned back a page which startled Frode. He hadn’t noticed they’d turned pages, but they were almost at the end of the book now, so they must have.
He read, or watched, or whatever the weird in-between was, himself walking up to the building. Around the corner of the house, out of fiction-Frode’s view, was a huge grizzly bear. Massive. He shook his head. There couldn’t have been a bear, not in the city, not a big one at least. Someone would have noticed.
The house was on the outskirts of town, and it only had two apartments -- his on the upper floor, and Imre’s on the bottom -- but people still walked by. Someone would’ve noticed a Grizzly.
He rubbed his eyes, and when he focused on the book again, he’d entered the empty apartment. The book showed him smaller than he was in reality, which had him question its reliability again. A tiny Frode and a massive Grizzly. It was two errors in less than a minute.
The book turned another page. There weren’t many pages left now which, he guessed, made sense since they’d almost reached present time, but it made him a little disappointed.
They jumped to the day Dario had come to visit. His face was twisted into an ugly sneer -- it hadn’t been in reality. He’d been angry, but Frode didn’t blame him. Frode had left him without a word. Had packed a bag of clothes and left a note on the kitchen table saying he’d moved out and wouldn’t come back.
His breath hitched as black fog wafted around Dario like a cloak while he yelled at Frode. Then Imre’s door banged open, and he rushed up the stairs. He grew with each step he took, and when he was standing over Dario, he had massive fangs dripping with saliva.
Frode shivered. It hadn’t happened. Imre had come up the stairs. He hadn’t spoken or snarled, but he’d put himself between Frode and Dario. To Frode’s astonishment, Dario had quieted and walked toward the exit. Imre had followed him, and he did in the book too.
Frode didn’t think his troubles with Dario were over, but he forgot all about it as Dario and Imre stepped out of the building. The book turned the focus back on Frode.
“No, show the garden.”
To his amazement, the book did. Outside, Dario was walking to his sleek black Mercedes. The glow from the lamp post illuminated his face as if they were in a scary movie. The black smoke still flowed around him, reminding Frode of a cartoon villain, and his breath hitched as tiny ravens fluttered around Dario as he got into the car. Then Frode spotted the Grizzly who was watching Dario from the shadows behind the hedge. Where had Imre gone? Maybe he’d turned around and gone into his apartment the moment Dario had left the building.
Yawning again, Frode made a mental note of checking for bear prints in the garden. Did it have a den nearby?
He put the book on the wobbly coffee table and went to get a glass of water. When he entered the living room again, the book was showing him at the attorney’s. She looked like the stepmother in Cinderella -- the book had a flair for animated characters. She hadn’t looked like that in reality. A bit stiff, and he had the feeling she had been looking down at him, but he didn’t think she was stepmother-evil. He hoped she wasn’t. When the book showed the box with the book and the keys, it glowed. Frode took a calming breath, only to wince when the book showed him opening it earlier in the day.
Frode winced as he watched Imre’s door fly open and bounce against the wall as he ran up the stairs. He was huge again as he banged on Frode’s door. As Frode spoke, Imre shrank back into an almost normal size. He’d been huge when Frode opened the door, but not as big as the book showed him.
He stretched and watched the last few hours play out in rapid succession. Nothing interesting, and the book skimmed over them as if it was fast-forwarding on an old VCR player.
Then the air froze in Frode’s lungs.
The book showed the morning, the coming morning. Frode slammed a hand over the open page as he took a shuddering breath. It hadn’t happened yet. Fuck.